December 30, 2016

Top Posts of 2016

It's safe to say that 2016 was a little crazier than expected. Luckily, it was still filled with great food. I've compiled lists of the top 10 recipes of the year, of all time, and those I think deserve a little more love. Feel free to comment on the ones you've tried and enjoy!

Top 10 Recipes of 2016:

10. Cinnamon Crack Pie - A gooey, caramel-y pie packed with cinnamon in a buttery, flaky crust

9. Blueberry Muffin Bread - The best parts of a blueberry muffin in cake (breakfast?) form and topped with extra streusel

8. Blackberry Sorbet - The best way to eat fruit: blended into a tart, velvety, secretly low-fat sorbet

7. Pumpkin Spice Blondies - Anything pumpkin spice is good, especially when it's in a chewy bar with white chocolate and actual pumpkin

6. Buffalo Meatball Sliders - Chicken meatballs tossed in buffalo sauce, smothered with ranch, and piled onto buttery toasted rolls perfect for football gamedays

5. Garlicky Shrimp Pomodoro - Al dente pasta tossed with buttery shrimp, fresh tomatoes, and a healthy dose of garlic

4. Southwestern Turkey Skillet - A big skillet loaded with lean ground turkey, every vegetable imaginable, and plenty of cheese

3. Extra Slutty Brownies - The classic slutty brownie (chocolate chip cookies, oreos, and brownies all in one) made even better with creamy chocolate ganache

2. Sausage, Kale, and White Bean Ragu - A luscious tomato ragu with hearty sausage and veggies

1. Bourbon Cherry Pork Roast - Bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin with a sweet and tart bourbon cherry sauce

10 Most Under-Loved Recipes:

10. Cranberry Eggnog Cheesecake Tart - A creamy eggnog cheesecake filling with a layer of tart cranberry sauce in a buttery, flaky crust topped with a drizzle of white chocolate

9. Seared Salmon with Tomato Corn Relish - Savory salmon with a sweet corn relish, tomatoes, and caramelized onions

8. Apple Pie Shortcake - Sweet, flaky biscuits with a spiced caramelized apple filling

7. Flank Steak with Tomato Caper Relish - Tender grilled steak with a bright tomato caper relish

6. S'mores Pie - A creamy chocolate filling with a sweet, fluffy toasted marshmallow topping in a crumbly graham cracker crust

5. Buttermilk Roasted Chicken & Gravy - Succulent roasted chicken thighs marinated in buttermilk and topped with a herb-infused gravy

4. Spinach and Prosciutto Stuffed Shells - Creamy ricotta, prosciutto, and spinach stuffed in shells, smothered in marinara, and baked until hot and bubbly

3. Ribeye with Rosemary Caramelized Onion Butter - A perfectly cooked steak topped with a rich herb-infused butter and caramelized onions

2. Maple Apple Spice Cake - A spice cake sweetened with maple syrup and topped with buttery caramelized apples

1. CinnaBabka Streusel Muffins - A chocolatey, streusely, buttery combination of cinnamon buns, streusel-topped coffee cake, and babka

Top 10 Recipes of All Time:

10. Waffles - The perfect recipe for crisp, fluffy waffles

9. Apple Muffins - Secretly vegan muffins with bites of crisp, tart apples

8. Quiche - A relatively low fat quiche packed with tomatoes, cheese, and spinach that can be easily adapted to other meats and vegetables

7. Cucumber Salad - Crisp cucumbers in a salty, savory marinade

6. Brownies - The best of both worlds: brownies that are both cakey and fudgey

5. Chili - A classic chili recipe with beef, sausage, beans, and veggies in a spicy tomato base

4. Meatballs - Tender, juicy meatballs in a savory red sauce perfect for pastas, pizzas, or sandwiches

3. Spicy Beer Chili - An upgrade of the classic recipe with a splash of beer and an extra kick

2. Guacamole - A creamy but not too smooth avocado dip with fresh lime and a hint of red onion

1. White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies - Always the top recipe on my blog; a buttery shortbread cookie studded with white chocolate and dried cranberries

December 23, 2016

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

Lately it seems like you can't escape hummus. It's one of the most popular snacks among my friends and there are rows and rows of it in grocery stores. You can eat it with pita chips. You can eat it with vegetables. You can slather it on a shoe and people would probably still eat it. Luckily, it just so happens it's also perfect for noshing on during the holidays and after you begin your inevitable New Year's Resolution diet. It's also surprisingly easy to make; I was able to whip this up as some friends arrived today, which means there's still time for you to make some for Christmas, New Year's Eve, or any other snacking occasion.

My goal with this recipe was to dress up regular old hummus. I know roasted red pepper hummus is fairly common, as is roasted garlic hummus, but combining the two has to require *some* creativity, right? My brain is fried from exams so just give me this one. People will like it, I promise, and it's an easy upgrade from the classic taste.

Making hummus requires blending ingredients in a food processor until smooth. This recipe uses chickpeas, roasted red peppers (you can roast them yourself or buy a jar), roasted garlic (just wrap some cloves in foil and bake at 375 until caramelized), a dollop of tahini (velvety sesame paste), a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and a drizzle of olive oil. I like to pulse the chickpeas, peppers, and garlic together first to start breaking them down, but you could probably just throw everything in all at once and you'd be fine.

Since the hummus recipe itself doesn't require much effort, I'd like to take this opportunity to inform you of the miracles of aquafaba (chickpea water) that you can experiment with using the canning liquid from your can of chickpeas. It mimics the properties of eggs better than anything I've seen (I couldn't even tell the difference when I substituted them in my chocolate chip cookie recipe). Just swap in a few spoonfuls of the liquid for each egg and watch the magic happen. It's great for anyone with egg allergies/sensitivities and vegans, and I promise the beany odor and flavor do cook out.

Since I am the queen of carbs, I prefer to serve this hummus with pita chips and/or crackers. You can throw in some baby carrots (my mom's personal favorite) or any other crunchy vegetable. I've also seen people use hummus as a spread on sandwiches for an extra punch of flavor, and many like to eat it straight off the spoon. I plan on having a bowl of this out for all my guests this holiday season, and it's not too late for you to do the same.

1 Can Chickpeas, Drained & Rinsed
1/2 Cup Diced Roasted Red Peppers
4 Cloves Garlic, Roasted
1/3 Cup Tahini
2 T Lemon Juice
1 T Olive Oil

Pulse the chickpeas, red peppers, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add the tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil and pulse until a desired consistency is reached. Season with salt and pepper.

Serves 6-8ish
Recipe Adapted from Bon Appetit

December 17, 2016

Christmas Light Cookies

I'm a little bitter right now. All my friends are posting pictures from back home or on vacation, and I literally just finished my first final (only 4 more to go before my 6am flight home in a week!). I suppose my consolation prize is the one night off I'm giving myself right now since I don't have another exam for 2 days. I figured I'd share an easy recipe for some festive cookies that make great gifts for your friends, coworkers, families, and, of course, Santa. I took my simple rolled sugar cookie dough (the one I used for linzer cookies) and added a bit of holiday flair. All it takes is a 2-minute glaze and a sprinkle of mini M&Ms or candy-coated sunflower seeds to turn these basic treats into something worth celebrating: gorgeous strands of Christmas lights criss-crossing stacks of sweet, buttery cookies.

As far as cookies go, this is about as simple as it gets. Just beat some softened butter and sugar together, add in the eggs and a hearty splash of vanilla, and stir in the dry ingredients. While these cookies aren't pure shortbread (there's an egg in there and it has more of a soft than a crumbly texture), you still want cookies that won't spread. The whole point of rolled sugar cookies is that they keep their shape, whether it's plain circles, pretty scalloped edges like I used here, or any fun cookie cutters you have on hand. That's why I use baking powder instead of baking soda in this recipe; there's no extra acid for baking soda to react with and baking powder gives it just a bit of lift without spreading.

I'm not really sure what would happen if you did big, thick drop cookies with this dough since I've only used it for rolled cookies. They keys to a successful rolled cookie are similar to those for making a pie crust: keep the dough cold and handle it minimally. This dough is a little on the softer side; it should be just firm enough to roll out with the help of some flour but not too tough that you have to hammer it out. I keep mine a little thicker than most recipes since I like soft cookies, but if you want a crunchy cookie just roll it thinner than my typical 3/8".

The cookies are done baking when they are set and just starting to become golden on the bottom/around the edges. I like a uniformly pale cookie for decoration purposes, but again if you're a crunchy cookie person leave it in for longer. I make a quick glaze to enhance the color of the lights and give them something to stick to. Just whisk some powdered sugar with some milk or cream until it's thick but easily spreadable. Swipe some onto each cookie, drizzle on some strings of melted chocolate (if you don't have a piping bag or a squeeze bottle just cut a small hole in a ziploc bag), and press in some mini M&Ms or those chocolate/candy-coated sunflower seeds (any small almond-shaped candy will work). The cookies do need some time to set so the decorations aren't nearly as delicate and the dairy in the glaze does make refrigeration necessary, but I'm sure Santa and any other taste-testers will appreciate the work. Now let's see if they work on my professors.

1 1/2 Sticks Butter, Softened
1 Cup Sugar
2 Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
2 1/2 Cups Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
2 Cups Powdered Sugar, Sifted
3 T Milk or Cream
1 Cup Chocolate Chips, Melted
1 Cup Mini M&Ms or Candy-Coated Sunflower Seeds

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter and sugar together. Add the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla. Whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt, then gradually add it to the dough.

Split the dough in half and chill until firm, at least 90 minutes.

Heat oven to 375F and line cookie trays with parchment.

Roll the dough out to 3/8" thick and cut into desired shapes (for Christmas light cookies, cut ~3" circles). Place on the prepared trays and bake until just golden around the bottom, about 8 minutes.

Whisk the powdered sugar and milk/cream together until smooth. Spread onto the cooled cookies. Drizzle the melted chocolate in lines across the cookies, then press the candies on top. Refrigerate once set.

Makes 16

December 7, 2016

Blood Orange Almond Cookies

You may not think of winter as the season for experimenting with produce. Everyone loves summer with all the corn and tomatoes and summer squash and what have you. But winter is pretty great, too: there's cranberries, greens, winter squashes, and tons of citrus. My personal favorite citrus is the blood orange, since it has a gorgeous color and just seems a bit more gourmet than regular oranges. This recipe will work with classic oranges, but you won't have that pretty pink glaze on these tasty cookies. These cookies are perfect for small gifts, cookie swaps, your new favorite Christmas cookie, or to stress eat when your house is filled with crazy family members. Helpful family holiday survival tip: nobody can criticize you when their mouths are full of cookies.

The secret to these cookies is actually the almonds. The blood oranges make these cookies tart and pretty, but the almonds are the key to the light, tender texture. I grind them in a food processor until fine (using almond flour/almond meal bypasses this step), and they act as a partial flour substitute to thicken the cookies and hold them together without forming an extensive gluten network, which makes tough cookies. You can toast the almonds before you grind them, but make sure they're cool first or you'll end up with almond butter. You also get punches of almond flavor from the sliced almonds on top and the dash of almond extract in the dough.

The rest of the recipe is generally pretty standard. When creaming the butter and sugar together, I throw in the orange zest so that it permeates the entire cookie and not just wherever the bits of zest are. The oils from the zest bind to the sugar crystals to let the flavor spread throughout the dough. After that, I mix in an egg yolk with some almond and vanilla extract, and the dry ingredients are gently stirred in as well. Before baking, I brush the dough with an egg white to help the sliced almonds stick to the top.

Once the cookies are baked, it's time to make the glaze. It's a super simple glaze that doesn't even need to be refrigerated since it's just blood orange juice and powdered sugar whisked together. The blood orange turns it a lovely pink color and adds an extra touch of sweetness and tang. I like to do a gentle drizzle for aesthetic purposes, but you can easily scale up the glaze and pour buckets onto each cookie if you're an icing person. Anyone who eats these cookies for Christmas or otherwise this holiday season will surely want to make them again year-round, so as I said before you can easily substitute regular oranges (and maybe some pink food coloring) so your cookie jar is well stocked for all.

1 Cup Sliced Almonds
1/3 Cup Sliced Almonds, Toasted & Cooled
2 Sticks Butter, Softened
1 Cup Sugar
3/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Blood Orange Zest
1/4 Cup Blood Orange Juice
1 Egg, Separated
1 tsp Vanilla
1/4 tsp Almond Extract

Pulse the 1/3 cup toasted almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Whisk together with the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Beat the butter, sugar, and orange zest together until fluffy and fragrant. Add the egg yolk, vanilla, and almond extract. Stir in the flour mixture.

Scoop the dough into balls and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350F and line cookie trays with parchment.

Brush the dough balls with the egg white and press the tops into the remaining sliced almonds. Place on the prepared trays and bake for 10 minutes or until just golden around the edges.

Meanwhile, whisk the blood orange juice and the powdered sugar together. Drizzle on the cookies when cooled.

Makes 28
Recipe Adapted from Serious Eats

November 22, 2016

Tollhouse Pie

It's super last minute for Thanksgiving, I know. I'm in the airport about to fly home and basically passed out from exams and homework, but I can assure I am still capable of making this pie, which means you certainly can make it too. It's like a giant gooey chocolate chip cookie baked into a pie crust so it's 2" thick and surrounded by buttery, flaky goodness. Does that not sound worth 20 minutes of work because if not you need to reevaluate your holiday priorities. This pie is a great alternative to all the fruit, pumpkin, and pecan pies on every single table (they're great and all but I still need some chocolate in my life), and it's easy enough to make that you can whip it up on Wednesday or even Thursday and still have something nice to bring to dinner.

Chocolate chip cookies are my go-to recipe. I bake them when I'm craving chocolate, when I need to stress-bake, or just when I'm bored. Since those three situations basically encompass my entire life, you can insinuate I have a batch of these sitting around pretty much all the time. I'd love for all events to have chocolate chip cookies as dessert, but sometimes you need something a smidgen nicer. I'm of the mindset that pies are always fancy, so it makes sense to try to turn chocolate chip cookies into a pie. Turns out it tastes pretty damn good, especially since it stays super gooey and full of molten chocolate.

It's essentially the same process as making chocolate chip cookies. Just beat some softened butter with sugar and brown sugar, add an egg and an egg yolk with some vanilla, then add the dry ingredients. Fold in your chocolate chips, pour it into the crust, and bake it until barely set. I will caution you that the chocolate chips do sink. If this bothers you, try tossing them in a spoonful of flour. I'm ok with a good layer of pure chocolate, but I know that's not always preferred.

I know Thanksgiving is supposed to be about Fall flavors like pumpkin and cranberry and apples, but sometimes you just need a chocolate chip cookie. Also, sometimes you just need to bring food so it's socially acceptable to crash someone else's Thanksgiving dinner. This pie works for both scenarios. It's as easy as making chocolate chip cookies (and equally tasty) but also a fancy-ish take on a classic that will win over everyone at your Thanksgiving table.

1 Sweet Crust, Pressed into a 9" Pie Plate (See Below)
1 1/2 Sticks Butter, Softened
1/2 Cup Sugar
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
1 Egg
1 Egg Yolk
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 Cup Flour
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Salt
1 Cup Chocolate Chips

Heat oven to 325F.

Beat the butter, sugar, and brown sugar together until fluffy. Add the egg, egg yolk, and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking soda, and salt. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 40 minutes or until set.

For the pie crust:
Pulse 1 1/4 C flour, 1/4 C sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt in a food processor until combined. Add 1 stick chilled and cubed butter and pulse until small pieces remain. Combine the an yolk with a tablespoon of cold water and add in. Pulse until it begins to form a ball, adding more water as necessary. Chill.

Makes 1 9" Pie
Recipe Adapted from Love from the Oven

November 13, 2016

Cinnamon Crack Pie

It's been a long week for everyone, so I'm trying to focus on things that make me happy, namely Friendsgiving with my Food Science Club peers, stress baking, and eating copious amounts of pie sticky and sweet enough to hold everything together. This pie has been heralded by many at that Friendsgiving and elsewhere as one of the best recipes I've ever made, which could be the reasoning behind the name. You know, because it's addictive. Like crack. The other logical linguistic conclusion could be because the pie cracks when it's done, but that's no fun.

So I've told you how amazing this pie is and clearly it has cinnamon in it and may or may not crack (but most definitely doesn't actually have crack in it), but you don't really know what's in it. It's hard to describe exactly, but try to imagine the filling from a pecan pie with a hint of cinnamon and no pecans. It's gooey, caramel-y, and packed with brown sugar goodness.

The filling is prepared kind of like a caramel. You just boil brown sugar, a bit of flour, butter, cinnamon, and a can of evaporated milk until it's thick. This can take a few minutes, but there are no eggs or other additional proteins to form a network to firm the filling while baking, so you need to make sure the filling is thick enough in this step. The filling does gel to a degree, but you don't want a runny pie. It should be about the consistency of cake batter before cooling; thick enough to spread and retain some of its shape while still being somewhat pourable.

After cooking, vanilla is stirred into the filling and it is chilled until cool. As you may remember from all my other pie recipes, the key to a good pie is to keep everything cold. When the butter in the crust is cold, the steam from baking creates flaky layers. Pouring a molten-hot caramel into a perfectly chilled crust would ruin that effort. A cold filling also helps to set the caramel because again you don't want to cut a slice of pie and have it all ooze out. Ideally, you get a perfectly set pie and top it with a big scoop of ice cream for a fresh start this week and/or the best dish at your Thanksgiving table. If this pie isn't quite your thing, stay tuned this month for more tasty Thanksgiving pie ideas.

1 Recipe Pie Crust Dough (See Below)
2 Cups Brown Sugar
6 T Flour
1 12oz Can Evaporated Milk
4 T Butter
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Vanilla

Heat oven to 375F. Grease a 9" pie plate.

Roll the dough out to fit the pie plate. Press gently to adhere and chill until firm.

In a medium pot, whisk the brown sugar, flour, evaporated milk, butter, cinnamon, and salt together over medium heat until it reaches a boil. Boil for 6 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla. Refrigerate until cool.

Pour the filling into the crust and bake for 5 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 325F and bake for 30 minutes or until set and crackly.

For the pie crust:
Pulse 1 1/4 C flour, 1/4 C sugar, and 1/4 tsp salt in a food processor until combined. Add 1 stick chilled and cubed butter and pulse until small pieces remain. Combine the an yolk with a tablespoon of cold water and add in. Pulse until it begins to form a ball, adding more water as necessary. Chill.

Serves 8
Recipe Adapted from Buns in My Oven